Dang those Bears. They came up to Pullman and ruined everybody's Homecoming on a flat out beautiful blue sky fall day. Cal, ranked 10th in the nation coming in, is playing the best football in the conference right now and the Cougars are struggling to get the ball into the endzone due to a rash of injuries that has brutalized WSU at every offensive position. Credit to the defense - the Cougars shut Cal out in the second half and held them to 21 points. Not bad considering Cal had been averaging over 40 points per game and was coming off a flat out thrashing of Oregon.
Nevertheless, a win is a win and a loss is still a loss. Frustration was evident for both players and coaches after the game. The Cougs clearly felt they should have done better and the failure to get the ball into the endzone could be getting into the Cougars' heads. WSU needs to shake off the loss and hopefully find some answers this week. The Cougs host Oregon next Saturday and while the Ducks aren't as good as Cal - nobody in the conference is, including USC, - Oregon is a good team that can score points.
1) The Cougar pass defense: Cal's Nate Longshore came into this game lighting up opposing teams, and Cal's very fast and talented receivers were cause for serious worry. While only getting one sack, WSU limited Longshore to 176 yards and no TDs, and picked him twice. Star receivers DeSean Jackson and Robert Jordan were held to 60 and 56 yards respectively.
2) Brandon Gibson: Gibson has been having a great season, and had big time game against a talented Cal secondary. Gibson led the Cougar receivers with 8 catches for 130 yards and made some outstanding catches despite strong coverage.
3) WSU second half team defense: The Cougars played an outstanding second half of defense. Cal's first score came after a blocked Darryl Blunt punt gave the Bears the ball deep in Cougar territory, meaning only 14 of Cal's points came as the result of sustained drives. WSU played stiff in the second half. The second half defense allowed no points and kept Cal from consistently moving the ball.
1) Luck in general: The Cougars were repeatedly victimized by questionable calls and bad bounces. Want a prime example? How about when the Cougars scored on a swing pass on third and goal only to have the play overturned on review. On the next play from the one yard line on fourth down, the Cougs were stuffed for no gain.
2) Run defense:Marshawn Lynch is a good player and ate the Cougs up. The Cougs could not find a consistent answer for Lynch who netted 152 yards and two TDs on 25 carries. Cal ended up netting 177 yards on the ground and all their points were from rushing touchdowns. That running game ate up a lot of clock - the game took less than three hours to play out.
3) Cougar rushing game: There was none. But for Derrell Hutsona's 70 yard run and another Hutsona 12 or 14 yard carry, the Cougs had nothing on the ground. In the first half, the Cougs were averaging .3 yards per carry - so bad that if all the Cougar first half plays had been running plays, WSU would not have made a first down.
4) Injuries: The Cal game was the first game where the Cougars really paid a price for all their injuries. With the tight end position massively depleted and the O-line banged up, it was no wonder the running game fizzled. Jason Hill was clearly not up to full speed from his OSU shoulder injury and DeMaundray Woolridge still does not look recovered from his first half thigh injury against Auburn. To add to the fun, Gary Rogers took a shoulder injury of as yet undetermined seriousness and D-end Mike Graise pulled a hamstring. Sheesh.
5) Red zone production: Again, there was none. The Cougars came away empty at every turn except for a 25 yard Loren Langley field goal that prevented the shutout although the Cougs were very arguably robbed of a third quarter score. WSU has to find an answer - the Cougars have scored only one touchdown in the last two games combined.
CougZone Player of the Game - Eric Frampton: Frampton was one of the best parts of a very solid defensive game. Frampton led the Cougars with 12 total tackles, forced and recovered a fumble, and brought in a fourth quarter interception that gave the Cougs good field position and the chance to score.